Long on rhetoric and short on meaningful action! That just about sums up the core values of the European Union and the British Government of David Cameron. Yes, they support the idea of a free and independently democratic Ukraine, but only for as long as it doesn't hurt their own economic interests. Is there such a thing as a Judas State? One that would sell its neighbour for the modern equivalence of thirty pieces of silver? Well if there is, then there seems little doubt that the likes of Germany and Britain would qualify for that prize, given that they both appear to forego their democratic principles, rather than risk the ire of Russia's industrial oligarchs and organised crime families, for fear that our nation might suffer some minor financial loss. What price Britain's moral standing in the world? What price our purported defence of democracy, or those democratic principles that are so commonly bandied about by the likes of Cameron, Clegg, Hague, etc.? They're clearly worth nothing at all, if the fate of the London Stock Market suddenly becomes a determinant for our nations moral compass, or meeting our international treaty obligations!
In 1994, Britain, the US and Russia signed a binding treaty guaranteeing to protect the integrity of Ukraine's territorial borders, with no specific stipulation being placed on that treaty agreement that Britain's undertaking was likely to be based on the UK suffering no economic loss, as seems to be the case today. The secretive approach by the Coalition to avoid at all costs having to impose sanctions against Russian financial interests in the city of London, or those pro-Putin oligarchs who have secreted their often ill-gotten gains in our nation's housing stock, should be a source of shame for every right thinking British citizen. Similarly, the fact that a number of the EU's leading nations are hurrying to protect their own trade and financial interests with a highly questionable Russian administration is an international disgrace, given that the EU talks so impressively about the rule of law, democratic mandates and the global importance of the Union itself. If nothing else, this particular crisis has helped prove the lie of the European Union's self-proclaimed regional influence, economic power and diplomatic weight. The Ukraine crisis has proved once and for all that none of these things exist in a meaningful way, something that has been testified to by Vladimir Putin's utter disregard and disdain for the Union and its membership over the past few days. Having measured the moral fibre of Merkel, Cameron, Hollande and the rest, Mr Putin recognises that none of these so-called leaders are going to risk jeopardising their own national economic interests in order to defend far-off Ukraine, despite their having done so much to encourage pro-Western Ukrainians to fight for unfettered access to the EU. In a sense therefore the EU has been seen by Mr Putin for what it really is, an unprincipled talking shop that cannot be relied upon to honour its word, let alone support its international obligations.
On a previous blog post I questioned whether or not David Cameron could be compared to that other great British political appeaser, Neville Chamberlain, who obfuscated and vacillated so hard over Hitler's rise in Germany that he very nearly brought our country to the brink of disaster. However, that having been said, Chamberlain's views had been informed by the tragedy of earlier events, where entire generations of young French, British Belgium, Canadian, American, Commonwealth and even German soldiers were essentially wiped out, as each side tussled with the other for control of the European continent. It was these human losses and the fear of repeating them that lay at the forefront of Chamberlain's mind, not what was in Britain's best economic interests, as seems to be the case with Mr Cameron and Co. As with his much talked about renegotiations with the EU over Britain's membership of the Union, Mr Cameron's whole approach is deluded, dishonest and duplicitous, talking tough for the cameras, but ready to fold like a cheap suit when confronted by a more determined opponent. He is, by far and away the worst Prime Minister this country has elected in a generation; and is certainly not the sort of political leader that most would choose to lead us through a major crisis, such as that we are experiencing today. Rather than confront the international bully, Mr Cameron would much prefer to accommodate him, thus ensuring that the bully, rather like the common blackmailer, will come back again and again, with even bigger and more unreasonable demands, until at last they reach such an unreasonable level that they simply cannot be met, as proved to be the case in the 1930's, when it led to the undoing of Mr Chamberlain.
Whether or not Cameron recognises the potential for other supposedly elected tyrants around the world to invade their neighbours territories on the pretence of defending ethnic groups within those territories, they certainly exist; and one wonders whether a failure to properly confront Mr Putin over Crimea has now set an international precedent that will be hard to stop happening again. What will Western powers do if China were to invade Taiwan, or the Senkaku Islands on a similar basis, or the North Koreans invaded South Korean territories using the same excuse? What would Britain do if Spain suddenly decided to occupy Gibraltar, or the Argentinan's parts of the Falkland Islands? Could we really rely on Mr Cameron and Co. to do the right thing and set out to recover them, or would he first assess the potential economic ramifications to the city of London and his financial backers before deciding on what action to take?
Although no great fan of the United States as a global superpower, or its entire approach to Europe and to Britain specifically, it is hardly any wonder that the US despairs at the actions of its European allies, whose over-reliance on the American military in the past has now been exposed for what it is, continental defence on the cheap. If it had been at all possible for Britain's international reputation to sink even lower than it had become under Blair, Brown and Cameron, then today under this Coalition that low point in our history has undoubtedly been reached. With our land forces, naval assets and air force trimmed to the bone; and without the prospect of an effective blue-water fleet for the next few years, our country has come to a sorry state indeed, when one bears in mind that this government seems happy to give billions of pounds of taxpayer's money to some of the most corrupt administrations in the world.
Where Washington calls for international unity on economic sanctions and seizure of assets in response to Russia's illegal actions, the European Union and its membership prevaricate and consider, mull over and discuss; and in the end agree on nothing, a fragmented approach from a now wholly discredited political union. No-one was ever suggesting that western military forces were ever going to be aligned directly against Russia, but when the western alliances cannot even muster a common approach to the unfolding crisis, then one has to ask what is the point of organisations like NATO, the UN or indeed the EU? If they cannot even mobilise their economic, diplomatic or political will against the Russian Federation, let alone a military response, then should any of us feel safe in our beds, now or in the future.
It is now crystal clear that not only is European membership interfering with our lives in terms of our economy, our education system, our taxes, our manufacturing industries, but more worryingly, it is hobbling our own national defensive capability. Britain must be able to speak with an independent voice when it comes to international issues, events that affect British people directly at home. These are not matters or duties that we can defer to a foreign parliament in Brussels, as to do so runs the risk of our national security being determined by strangers, or even worse, sworn enemies of our country.
Clearly, the Russian's actions in Crimea don't represent any sort of direct danger to the British people as such, but have we and our political leadership become so morally bankrupt that we're prepared to countenance a militaristic bully boy riding roughshod over international law and existing treaties, especially those that previous British government's have signed into life. With billions of dollars of legitimate and not so legitimate Russian investments being poured into British based banks and property portfolios by Russian energy oligarchs and members of Mr Putin's immediate Kremlin circles, Britain, along with the likes of Switzerland, Cyprus and the USA are perfectly placed to impose an economic lesson on Vladimir Putin's Russia, that illegal military activities bring with them a cost to the wider economy. But of course that's unlikely to happen with Mr Cameron's Coalition willing to find any excuse in order to avoid having to play political hard ball with the Russian Bear. As is noted in the Financial Times today, economic measures work both ways; and although many in the West would fret over entering an economic dispute with oil and gas rich Russia, for fear that they may switch off the taps, it's worth remembering that Russia's economy relies on the sale of those natural resources to help pay for everything else. Mr Putin really would be cutting off his nose to spite his face, were he to refuse to sell his country's native oil and gas supplies, especially when such resources can be sourced from elsewhere.
As has been pointed out by a number of commentators, Mr Putin, his close circle of political allies and to a lesser extent the Russian people themselves have benefited enormously from the globalisation of their industries and their home economy. Those benefits however come with a price and with significant responsibilities, including the ability to honour international treaties; and to talk with neighbouring states instead of threatening them militarily, like some immature schoolyard bully. Any sort of conflict is generally bad for business confidence and although Russia might gain some national kudos from picking an argument with neighbouring Ukraine, ultimately that won't count for a lot if they turn themselves into an international pariah that nobody, but nobody wants to deal with!